Rep. Joseph McNamara was at the door of the Cranston Portuguese Club Sunday evening. He barely had enough space to move as party delegates pushed into the room. It was just what the Democratic State Committee chairman had hoped to see.
McNamara said the turnout for the party election was a sign of the party’s vitality. It was also a signal to Progressive Democrats that when it comes to challenging the party leadership, they need more than headlines.
McNamara and his slate of officers easily defeated a challenge from state Rep. Moira Walsh. McNamara won re-election as the leader of the state Democratic Party on a roll call vote of 141 to 29.
McNamara congratulated Walsh on her campaign and for bringing issues before the party.
“We have more that unites us than divides us,” he said after the vote was tallied.
He urged party members to listen and respect the diverse opinions of Democrats, as that will make for a better party.
Walsh said she didn’t take joy in seeking the party leadership, but felt compelled to do so.
“I am not proud of the party that intimidates women who are Democrats and intentionally endorses non-incumbents to scare us into not using our voices,” she said, referencing her own situation. Rather than backing Walsh for re-election in 2018, McNamara gave the endorsement to Michael Earnheart, who had supported President Trump.
“There’s work that needs to be done, and as of right now I am not proud of my party. I’m not proud of a party that gets national attention for treating women like second-class citizens and puts up people to run against strong, capable, progressive women,” she said to scattered applause.
In seconding McNamara’s nomination as party chair, Rep. Patricia Serpa and Jack Hutson talked of what he has done for the party.
“He is unequivocally the best person to lead the party,” Serpa said.
“Over the last four years,” Huston said, “Democratic election successes have been significant and have not been by accident.”
Huston said McNamara has worked to focus the party’s message, noting that in 2018, the Democrats not only won statewide offices but made inroads in traditional Republican strongholds of East Greenwich and Barrington. He also noted that party offices were relocated from Providence to Warwick, which is more accessible and provides for free parking.
In his remarks, McNamara said, “Forty years ago when I was first elected, there was a bruising election taking place in the state. We won that election, and it was the first time we had a Democratic governor in a generation. Forty years later, we kept our entire federal delegation blue, also won cities and towns, Democratic councilmen, councils, even school committees. In the General Assembly, we had a supermajority in the last election when we gained seats in the House and the Senate. This cannot happen in a vacuum. We have, during the past two years, increased the number of caucuses that we have and increased the involvement.”
McNamara also spoke of initiatives to bring more groups under the Democratic tent.
“Under my chairmanship, I asked Ann Gooding, she started the women’s caucus. We have started an ability caucus, our veterans’ caucus. I said, ‘Republicans don’t own veterans.’ Thanks to the leadership of [Rep. Camille] Vella Wilkinson and Sen. [James] Seveney, they have done a tremendous job organizing our veterans, veterans’ boot camp, organizing voters, voter registrations. So together, we are stronger,” he said.
That hasn’t been enough for some Democrats, however.
“I am running in spite of my best interests,” Walsh said. “I assure you, this is very scary to be up here and the consequences are very large for me…I believe that these members of this party deserve better. We deserve a party that works for all of us.”
She added, “I am telling you that I am not running because I want to bring this crazy, left-wing, socialist progressivism. I am running because I want a party that stands up for all of us, particularly those of us who are already in it.”
Votes for members of Walsh’s slate were similarly lopsided.
Rep. Grace Diaz won re-election as first vice chair over Rep. Lauren Carson, and incumbent party secretary Arthur Corvese handily beat Rep. Teresa Tanzi. Stephen Mulcahey won the vacant position of recording secretary in a contest with Linda Ujifusa.